Selection of paintings in an auction house
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How to Build an Art Collection by Purchasing Paintings at Auction

On a simply aesthetic level, the art you acquire and enjoy will provide you with a continual source of pride and pleasure. However, be warned: collecting is a very addicting activity that may easily turn into a lifetime habit.

If you're making a large purchase or investment, you'll want to be well-informed so you can make the best decision possible. When researching, the internet may be an excellent place to start. Both for learning about the artist and finding out what prices have been paid in the past.

There are various characteristics to consider when comparing artworks, including quality, subject, date, origin, and condition, to name a few. Even if you aren't an expert, a few signs may generally give you a fair sense of how much an artwork is worth at auction.

Know What You're Getting Yourself into and When to Back Out

Abstract painting in greys and orange

The auction estimate is merely a rough guide and is frequently used by the auction house as a marketing tool; in other words, it may be purposely low to entice bidders, or it may be low due to negative concerns. In other instances, the estimate may be excessively high, owing to the seller's demands. The seller will establish a reserve that cannot be lower than the low estimate, and the reserve cannot be greater than the low estimate.

The auction experts are more than pleased to address any inquiries you may have. Inquire as to why the owner is selling, obtain a condition report, and inspect the back of a picture to see any historical clues; labels from significant collections or exhibits add to the value. Inquire about general interest from other parties as the auction date approaches. However, don't reveal your bidding technique - keep in mind that the seller employs the auction experts and may utilise your bid to solicit bids from other clients.

Know What You're Getting Yourself into and When to Back Out

It may be a nerve-wracking process deciding what to bid on. You're dealing with your own money and investing, not simply making a ‘normal’ purchase. It would be best if you established a boundary since it is a frightening notion. Because an auction may be exhilarating, try not to get carried away and bid more than you have set aside.

Likewise, just because others are not bidding vigorously does not indicate the lot is unworthy; if you have done your homework, you will know the value to you and your collection before the auction starts.

The Major Players to Be Aware of at Auction

There are a few essential participants in the auction process, and we've included some of the more common ones below:

  • Consignor: A person or entity that has consigned the artwork, generally the owner.
  • Specialist: This is the person or people that organise the auction. They're in charge of getting the art committed, calculating the estimate, classifying it, and putting it on show.
  • Auctioneer: This is the person who will be in charge of the bidding.
  • Client services: Employees at prominent auction houses function as liaisons between bidders and specialists and take phone bids.

Impressionist style painting of a vase and flowers
Painting of a Venice scene with gondolas

Auction Terms to Know When Buying Art at Auction

  • Paddle: Regardless of whether you bid online or in person, you will be given a paddle, your bidder number. You will be issued an actual paddle if you attend an auction.
  • Absentee and Telephone Bids: This refers to those who have left a commission bid that might have the auctioneer bid on their behalf. Alternatively, auction professionals accept bids over the phone and pass them to the auctioneer.